By Cornelius A. Fortune
DETROIT – Bringing paintings to life is one thing – music, literature, and even film have adapted oil on canvas to other mediums. But translating those same paintings in the form of dance is less familiar to most audiences.
“Color-ography” is unique because it is inspired by the paintings of renowned African American painter Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000).
The work will be performed by the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company (DCDC) Feb. 10-11 at the Detroit Opera House.
Lawrence’s oeuvre included The Migration of the Negro, Harriet Tubman, The Lovers, John Brown, Alice and her Tormentors and Wounded Man, and many others. He is considered to be one of the most influential African-American artists of the 20th century.
Choreographed by four of today’s most acclaimed African American choreographers, “Color-ography” features the work of Donald Byrd, Rennie Harris, Kevin Ward and Reggie Wilson. The production combines dance with video projections and music ranging from traditional Banda-Dakpa from the Central African Republic, Sarah Vaughan, and many others.
This diversity is what piqued the interest of Carol Halsted, director of dance, Detroit Opera House, who booked the performance.
“I thought this was an intriguing performance that includes both art and dance, celebrating Black history month,” said Halsted. “We’re talking about highlighting the paintings of Jacob Lawrence, who was one of the premiere African American painters of the 20th century, and an African American dance company (DCDC), so I thought it was a good blend.”
In addition to the performance, the DCDC will hold workshops throughout the week and a preview discussion on Friday, Feb. 9, at the Detroit Institute of the Arts, starting at 6 p.m.
“There will be a chance to listen to them (the cast) talk about how they put movement to the paintings,” said Halsted. “It’s a very virtuosic, exciting modern company. The choreographers they commissioned are four of the leading choreographers in the nation today, so I think it should be an exciting performance. I’m looking forward to it.”
Teri Fritze, production manager of the DCDC says that the production is unlike anything the company has undertaken.
“This is the first time we’ve used projections. Each piece has different images – on the dancers, on the floor, on the backdrop…the costumes are fabulous,” said Fritze. “We had one costume designer that did all four pieces. Each piece is totally different.”
The show is actually divided into four parts, each representing its respective choreographer’s vision.
“Donald Byrd used the Migration series; Rennie Harris did the black and white kind of street scene images; Reggie Wilson was more ideas and concepts. Each choreographer got to interpret (Lawrence’s work).”
Kevin Ward’s piece deals with the turbulence of the ’60s and its affect upon Lawrence’s art.
“We think this project is unique,” said Fritze. “We have some teachers doing some outreach (and) we do a lot of master classes in the schools. We’ve been taking the migration idea and having students find out where they’ve come from and actually create (their own) dances.”
“Color-ography” will feature set and projection design by Tobin Rothlein, costume design by Omotayo “Wunmi” Olaiya and lighting design by James Clotfelter. The Detroit Opera House will be the third stop on “Color-ography’s” 20-city premiere tour, as part of the company’s 2007 DaimlerChrysler Dance Series.
Dayton Contemporary Dance Company’s “Color-ography”
8 p.m. Feb. 10
2 p.m. Feb. 11
(313) 237-SING (7464) or online at http://www.michiganopera.org.